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Delta's Self Serving Objections to the Continental/United Antitrust Application

It shouldn't really be a surprise that an airline would object to something that helps its competitors, but I do find it amusing to see how blatantly self-serving those objections can be. United, Continental, Lufthansa, and Air Canada have applied for a transatlantic joint venture that would also include global antitrust immunity for those carriers along with TAP, LOT, Austrian, bmi, SAS, and Swiss. Last week, Delta filed its official objection to the proposal (PDF).

It seems funny that an airline that just merged with Northwest and is looking at a Delta/Northwest/Air France/KLM monster venture would object to something relatively similar from its rivals, but there are some very clear reasons here, and they're all self-serving. They give a lot of reasons for why they don't like this, but there are a couple that clearly stand out as the real reasons for the objection.

  1. Delta Wants More Access to Brazil Part of their argument is that this is fine if it applies on transatlantic routes where competition is heavy and the skies are open, but it's not fine elsewhere. There a few examples given, and one is Brazil. They argue that United now controls 22 percent of frequencies to Brazil while Continental holds 13 percent. Though the combined 35 percent is still less than American's 38 percent, it's more than the 20 percent that Delta now holds. (Those numbers probably need to be adjusted now that Delta has won a couple more flights to start LAX to Sao Paulo.)
  2. Delta Wants More Access to China In China, it's a bit different, and they really have to tiptoe around this one. Northwest and United had similar access levels to China while Delta and Continental had limited access. Still, Delta makes its case that a United/Continental tie-up would give them too much control over the Chinese market. It's funny to see this since the Delta/Northwest situation seems so similar to me, and other airlines have been doing whatever they could to delay starting their new China routes. But, Delta now sees more opportunity with Northwest, I assume, and it seems clear they want more access.
  3. Delta Wants to Protect New York It's no surprise to hear that Delta has been focusing on its New York presence, so why not try to get a little help from the government? In this proposal, only Continental has a significant presence in New York. Sure, Lufthansa and others have flights from New York to their hubs, but that's about it. Even United has very little from there. But Delta is concerned about Lufthansa's active investment in JetBlue. They fear that this would lead to massive cooperation between the all the Star airlines and JetBlue in New York even though JetBlue has nothing to do with this application. Clearly, Delta wants to make a preemptive strike to require that Lufthansa distance itself from JetBlue if it wants to be more involved with other US carriers.
You'll notice that I say Delta is being self-serving, but I'm not really criticizing it. Any company should be self-serving in its desires to fight competition. That being said, it's still a little sickening to hear them spout all these pro-consumer arguments when most people can assume that is far from their real motivation.
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